Have you been binge watching Breaking Bad? If you have, then you definitely know that the protagonist-turn-antagonist Walter White/Heisenberg, regardless of the fact that he has become an evil drug lord, was a very good Chemistry teacher. Well, his students seem to enjoy his class, and more importantly, we all see how he got his favourite student Jesse get his interest back in Chemistry (Yeah Mr.White! Yeah SCIENCE!). Well done Mr.White! Oh, but wait, don’t forget that Walter was even way more successful as a drug dealer than as a teacher, and yes, he is more than capable of teaching us all about doing business. So adjust you seat and keep silent, and listen to Mr.White’s great lesson about how to make it in a tough industry which is “big enough to be listed on NASDAQ”.
- Different is even better than better
Though it is common sense that a better product would be well received by consumers, a marketer or a businessman must know very well that better is never enough. That a product is good or bad depends greatly in the consumers’ mind, which is somewhat skewed by their emotion and prejudice: they get used to one thing, they like it, and they would not trade it for even a better product. If you don’t believe this, try convincing Apple fans to buy any smartphone other than iPhone.
Then what is the thing to do when you are a newcomer to a market whose customers are satisfied with the product? Well, the answer is: make it different.
When Walt and Jesse entered the meth business, no need to say they were not the only cooks and dealers out there. Their customers, methheads, were satisfied with available products (“We have the most unpicky customers in the world” – stated Jesse from episode “Fly”). At first Walt made his meth the best thing in the market, with 99.1% purity, and they made some money with that; but only after the duo changed their cooking method and made that “baby blue” crystal meth did they become the kings of meth world. The color blue became a trademark of Heisenberg’s product that every methhead desired. Some other drug gangs even tried to dye their products blue to make it look like Walter’s. The blue meth became a hit, and I bet they would definitely make the front page of Forbes in the meth world (if there were any).
And don’t forget, even a school dropout like Jesse knows to add chilli powder to make his product stand out in the market. Differentiate or die, yo.
- The Say my name tactic
Without a doubt “Blue” has become Heisenberg’s signature, and the brand has evolved into a giant in the meth market. In business, it is important to remind consumers of your brand, so that they would put you on the altar and become more loyal. As for Walter White, he just did the right thing to remind people of his Heisenberg brand, with the appearance he put on everytime he came to meet other gangs to negotiate: that black hat, those sunglasses and a bald head. Well, speaking of which, he even shaved his hair to remain the scary look (everyone else just assumed it was cancer hair loss). And last thing to do, let them chant your brand name like you are God! Who can forget this epic scene
“Say my name”
“You’re Goddamn right.”
Now let’s talk about another business managed by Heisenberg: his car wash called A1, which he showed great commitment to despite the fact that the business was purely for laundering money. Now you see, everytime a customer pays at the cashier, they would be greeted with “Have an A1 day”. This gesture obviously makes customers feel welcomed at the place, and more importantly, “it reinforces our brand” as Skyler puts it. A catchphrase like this would ingrain the brand name in customers’ mind. It seems like the Whites could have legally made it in business if they had owned a car wash in the first place.
- Protect your market share…
In business world, market share means power. If you can’t make it to top 3 in the market you are doing business, chances are that you are sharing a tiny piece of profit cake with tens of other market losers. In the world of crystal meth, the market share concept could be replaced by “territory”, hence maintaining market share means marking and protecting your own territory. Remember when Heisenberg was going shopping and he saw some guy buying stuffs that, to his experience, are used to cook meth? Unarmed without any back-up guy, he did not hesitate to confront the big guys to send them a clear message “Stay out of my territory.” So epic is that scene! Well, of course, Heisenberg had a reason not to worry about any competitors, as his product stood out in the market, which is what any businessman should have for their products. But maybe some businessman who watches Breaking Bad would want so bad to do it for his own business and be Heisenberg for once in his life “Stay out of my market share, bitch!”
- Intellectual property matters
Though Jesse can cook at 96% pure meth, he would never have the chance to open his own meth franchise as it is Mr.White’s formula, and Mr.White doesn’t let anyone go with his formula. That’s why Walter and Jesse fought against each other in season 3, when Jesse got out of rehab and wanted to resume his business cooking meth on his own. People may judge Walt as being selfish to Jesse, but he does have a point. If something is the product of someone’s intellectual work, he or she must have every right and control over it. Walter came up with the crystal blue formula, which, by the way, makes the best meth ever, then it comes as no shock that he does everything to protect the copyright. Now you may say, come on, it’s just a recipe! Wow, it’s a recipe that makes millions of dollars (and possibly billions in the years to come). Now you won’t believe how strict the law goes for intellectual property, take your iPhone out of the pocket and look at its screen: every single item put onto that phone, even the “Slide to unlock” pattern, is protected by law, which means no one is supposed to copy these patterns without asking Apple for permissions and (of course) paying them. Samsung already had to pay over 100 millions dollars to Apple. Well, Jesse had to give up his whole life and soul to Heisenberg, don’t you think?
- Do what you love
“I liked it. I was good at it.”
Heisenberg talked to his wife about his epic criminal journey, and that is exactly what someone should say when they talk about their business (which should really be legal!)
As Heisenberg put it, he cooked meth not just to provide for the family, but also to satisfy his own ego. He is a genius at Chemistry who is overqualified for his current job as a high school teacher; when he decided to break bad, Walter was wise to choose something that is closely related to his forte. When starting up a business and choosing what to sell, market demand could be one crucial factor; but that you love doing something and are good at it should be in the top list of the “Why” column.